Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
American Golden-Plover - Pluvialis dominica
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General Comments Unlike its slightly larger cousin, the Black-bellied Plover, the American Golden-Plover is a good find for the birder in North Carolina, being a rather scarce migrant, and limited mainly to the fall season. Wintering on the Pampas of southern South America, the species makes its many-thousand-mile northward migration through the middle of the United States, essentially by-passing Atlantic Coast states. On the other hand, the fall migration is mostly over the western Atlantic, with smaller numbers across the entire eastern half of the continent. The species is seen in spring mostly in the mountains, in pastures and other short grass habitats, especially where damp; in fall, birds are usually seen on the drier portions of mudflats, small pools, short grass at turf farms or spray irrigation fields, and other short grass habitats (such as lawns), even along the coast. It tends to avoid salt water, so is not usually found with Black-bellied Plovers; however, it can be seen at some tidal pools and short grass areas, where both species can be present together. Whether the species is increasing or not, there were a remarkable five records for the coastal area in spring 2016.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient. Very rare in spring, rare but regular in fall, along the entire coast, particularly the Outer Banks; in the Tidewater zone, casual spring and very rare fall migrant. Farther inland, very rare fall migrant, and casual in spring in the Sandhills. Spring records (about 19, of which five came in 2016) only for the Sandhills region, Mattamuskeet NWR, Futch Game Land (Tyrrell), and the immediate coast. Mainly mid-Aug to mid-Oct, with a number of records to late Nov; one at Cape Hatteras campground Dec 1992 to 9 Jan 2003. In spring, Mar thru May. Two at Futch Game Land on 5 Mar 2023 were very early. One seen and photographed at Pea Island NWR on 15-16 Jun 2018 was most unusual for early summer, as was one at Cape Hatteras Point on 28 Jun 2019. Peak counts: 32, turf farm near Creswell (Washington), 3 Sep 2013; 26, Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, 5 Sep 1999 (after Hurricane Dennis); 21, field along Shirley Farm Road (Beaufort), 11 Nov 2023; 14, North River Farms (Carteret), 7 Sep 2014; 13, Kill Devil Hills, 7 Sep 1964. Peak in spring: 17, near Southern Pines, 23-24 Mar 1968.
Piedmont Transient. Casual in spring (only about four records), rare but annual in fall, over most of the province, but a preponderance of records (as for most shorebird species) in the eastern portion, especially at Falls and Jordan lakes. Mainly mid-Aug to mid-Nov, with a peak in the latter half of Sep; in spring, late Mar to early May. Peak counts: 41, Jordan Lake (lakebed), 3 Nov 1979; 30, Jordan Lake, 28 Oct 2007; 21, North Wilkesboro, 2 Oct 1959 (after Hurricane Gracie). Peak in spring: 7, Falls Lake (lakebed), 10 Apr 1982.
Mountains Transient, but nearly all records are from Hooper Lane/Mills River area in Henderson, where very rare to rare in both spring and fall. Elsewhere, apparently only six records, from Transylvania, Haywood, Madison, and Watauga; one photographed at Bamboo in the last county, on 26 Jun 2008, was an amazing record, as was one at Max Patch Bald (Madison) at 4500 feet elevation on 10 Oct 2021. Primarily mid-Mar to late Apr; early Sep to early Nov. Peak fall counts (all from Hooper Lane): 59 on 21 Sep 2009; 20 on 6 Sep 2017; 14 on 7 Sep 1999; 14 on 7 Sep 2013. Peak in spring (all from Hooper Lane): a remarkable 60 on 28 Mar 2022 (and 40-52 there as early as 25 Mar); 8 on 21 Mar 1999.
Finding Tips The species is best located in Sep and Oct, especially after cold fronts. A few birds are present every fall along the Outer Banks; occasionally flocks of five or more birds are seen. Sites such as the Cape Hatteras Point campground, the impoundments at Pea and Bodie islands, sod farms just west of Creswell, mudflats at the larger reservoirs (such as Falls and Jordan lakes), and the large fields (at least when wet) along Hooper Lane (in the mountains) are your best bets.
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Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-03-10]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.